‘Picky Jackdaw’ gives vegetarians a reason to crow

A bright, nonsmoking, vegetarian restaurant that is child-friendly and good value for money may draw vegetable lovers out of the closet

Dana Alena 4.5.2011

Nejsou-li vám proti mysli méně obvyklé vegetariánské kombinace, stojí příjemný podnik nedaleka pražského Florence za pokus. foto: © Dominik BoumaČeská pozice

Nejsou-li vám proti mysli méně obvyklé vegetariánské kombinace, stojí příjemný podnik nedaleka pražského Florence za pokus.

If you tend to find yourself in the Prague’ Florenc neighborhood on a regular basis and are not afraid of experiments, try out the Mlsná kavka (The Picky Jackdaw) next to the viaduct.  This nonsmoking vegetarian restaurant, which employees disadvantaged people, was founded by Dutch vegetarian Filip Kavka Smiggels (he took his middle name from his Czech wife) in collaboration with the civic association Green Doors.

A silhouette of a jackdaw is a recurring motif on the walls and on the swinging kitchen doors. The furnishing is modern without being flashy. Yellow and red predominate in the first room, beige, brown and pea green in the second. You can’t miss the gigantic bunch of asparagus and equally huge artichokes on the wall.

There is also an impressively designed and fenced off children’s corner (more of a corral) occupying a good quarter of the premises, as well as diaper changing facilities.

Several times the charming owner came over in person to take our order. We chose lentil soup with chard as our starter from the daily menu, and wild mushroom croquettes.

That’s variety for you

As well as lentils, this hearty soup contains small chunks of chard and red pepper and has a slightly sour flavour. The overall impression is good, and while the dish may not be a fireworks display of different flavors, the unusual combination of ingredients and the absence of any artificial flavorings is a refreshing change in the Czech Republic.

The second starter was stewed slices of hazelnut in a béchamel sauce, molded into long croquettes and fried. A light mustard sauce made an ideal accompaniment along with a refreshingly tangy salad on an arugula base with lolla rossa lettuce, flavored to perfection by an experienced hand.

For the next course we decided to experiment with a variation on nasi goreng with satay, inspired by Asian cuisine. The traditional rice was replaced by a bed of piquant fried bulgur with small chunks of vegetables (pepper, carrot and leek), topped by two skewers of fried tofu dipped in peanut sauce. The flavor is interesting and novel, and the dish is nutritious and filling.

Fresh vegetables and a unobtrusive dressing

In between courses we ordered mixed salad, which contains several types of lettuce, arugula, grated carrot, radish and pumpkin seeds, rounded off with an dressing of olive oil with traces of Dijon mustard. The vegetables were absolutely fresh, and we were more than satisfied. The dish is natural, healthy, crunchy and refreshing — what better way to supplement your vitamin deficit at the beginning of spring?

The next course is portobello steak with cream pepper sauce and capers. The flash-fried giant mushroom has a wonderfully juicy consistency and a mouth-wateringly natural flavor. The sauce is delicious, though there could have been more of it. We opted for mashed potatoes as a side dish, which though faultless could have been slightly more salted. Kč 145 for one mushroom might seem a bit steep, though we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the potatoes — listed separately in the menu — weren’t charged for one the bill.

To round off we opted for tiramisu — dished out by ice-cream scoop and more creamy than spongy — and an outstandingly tasty coffee delivered to the owners by the neighboring Fair Trade shop run by their project partner, the Ecumenical Academy Prague.

Fair price

The bill for our lunch in this pleasant environment came to Kč 620, which  is well worth paying for good, authentic food. Though not confirmed vegetarians, we both love well-cooked, meat-free food. What’s more, from time to time we feel like something tasty that isn’t going to leave us feeling stuffed.

After visiting Mlsná kavka we felt both virtuous and satiated. This pleasant, aesthetically pleasing venue offers good quality, creatively prepared food. It might not give you a culinary orgasm, but it certainly won’t poison you. And in Prague that’s saying something.

Mlsná kavka
Sokolovská 327/29
Prague 8–Karlín
Tel.: 777 913 054
Open: Mon–Sat 11:30 am – 11 pm, Sun 11 am – 11 pm
www.mlsnakavka.cz

Selection of dishes:
Wild mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese and pink peppercorns: Kč 68
Vegetable chips with a slivovice and thyme dip: Kč 68
Potato salad with vinaigrette, chives, black salsify and pecorino cheese: Kč 85
Oven-baked chicory with smoked cheese, pistachios and walnut oil foam, side order: Kč 140
Arborio rice risotto in wine and cream with black salsify, goat cheese and marinated shallots: Kč 130
Crunchy almond cookies with plain chocolate dip: Kč 65

Selection of drinks:
Espresso: Kč 32
Rajec mineral water: Kč 28
Glass of wine (0.2 l): Kč 42
Draft Budvar 10° (0.5 l): Kč 25